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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. For more information please see our web site at


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David M. Sundman, Secretary/TreasurerNumismatic Bibliomania Society
P. O. Box 82 Littleton, NH 03561


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You won't regret it!

Click here to read this issue on the web


Wayne Homren

I've been off enjoying a vacation with my family, but with the help of Joel Orosz and Dick Johnson this issue of The E-Sylum is ready. Because I've been offline most of the week, we're trying something new in lieu of the usual format - a best-of issue.

Joel has combed through our archives and selected a set of articles that exemplify the best of what The E-Sylum offers. Dick Johnson selected a couple of his own favorite submissions, too. Thanks! I did make time to include the latest numismatic literature dealer announcements, so we’ll open the issue with two updates from Kolbe & Fanning.

Meanwhile, keep those emails coming - they'll overflow my inbox, but I'll start picking up the pieces this week and will do my best to get many of your comments and observations into the next issue. Have a great week, everyone!

Wayne Homren
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


George Kolbe forwarded this announcement of the next Kolbe & Fanning numismatic literature sale. -Editor

Kolbe Fanning logo Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers are pleased to announce that over 1400 lots of rare and desirable numismatic literature are featured in their Mail Bid Sale 122, closing on September 15, 2011. Particularly rich in rare and desirable works on American numismatics, the 112-page, 1401-lot catalogue also includes an extensive selection of interesting and elusive works on ancient, medieval and modern numismatics.

The sale starts off with a fine 485-lot consignment, the library of a coin dealer specializing in ancient and foreign coins. While it features many of the great multi-volume standard works on ancient coins and a number of classic works on that topic in excellent condition and from famous libraries, it is also quite diverse. Over twenty different consignments make up the balance of the sale. Among them are modern key works on Eastern European numismatics, classic works on Latin American coins, interesting photographic oddments from the Jack Collins archives, and important American numismatic works from the library of noted colonial coin collector, George C. Perkins.

Sale highlights include:

  • Georges Le Rider’s copies of Svoronos on the coins of the Ptolemies, Babelon on Syria and on Persia, and Newell on Eastern and Western Seleucid mints
  • A fine original set of Tolstoï’s Monnaies Byzantines
  • Complete sets of BMC Greek, Roman Provincial Coinage, Davenport on crowns and talers, Duruy on Rome and Greece, Hahn’s Moneta Imperia Byzantine, a finely bound set of de Saulcy’s 1836 work on Byzantine coins, a complete set of the Typos monographs, etc.
  • Sheridan Downey’s 1993 Overton sale and Downey sales 10"26
  • Official copies of Leonard Holland’s 1959 Pennypacker large cent sale documentation
  • An original 1957 duplicated typescript contract of the sale of the George Mihailovitch collection of Russian coins and medals between Abe Kosoff and Sol Kaplan
  • An attractive original set of the Vidal Quadras y Ramón Collection
  • Hirsch’s 1909 Consul Weber Roman sale and a fine copy of the famous 1896 Montagu sale of Roman gold coins
  • Spink & Son’s Monthly Numismatic Circular, 1892"1939 complete
  • A long run of Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum volumes
  • First printings of the 1813 and 1814 U.S. Mint Reports and an 1813 Treasury Department report on the Mint
  • A finely bound 1903 Sammlung Bachofen von Echt, featuring Roman coins and medallions
  • Walker on Umayyad and Arab-Byzantine coins
  • George Perkins’s original plated 1907 Stickney and 1912 Earle Chapman sales
  • Spahr’s works on Sicilian coins
  • A rare 1980s Narodna Bank Belgrade guide to counterfeit and genuine world paper money
  • John E. Wilkison’s leatherbound 1954 King Farouk sale
  • A remarkable archive of numismatic Heeren Brothers materials
  • Original sets of Dasí and Herrera on eight reales
  • Nice runs of Bolender, Elder, Haseltine, Bowers, and Pine Tree auction sale catalogues
  • An original 1875 Crosby Early Coins of America with the 1873, title, introduction, and other rare materials bound in
  • A complete set of Lester Merkin sales
  • A nice run of 85 early Stack’s auction sale catalogues, 1935"1952
  • George Perkins’s own copy of the special limited edition of his collection of Connecticut coppers
  • A rare first printing Heath counterfeit detector
  • A near fine first edition, first printing Yeoman Red Book
  • A priced and named 1932 Giovanni P. Morosini sale of Italian and other rare gold coins
  • And much more

A printed catalogue may be obtained by sending $10 to: KOLBE & FANNING NUMISMATIC BOOKSELLERS LLC, 141 W JOHNSTOWN ROAD, GAHANNA OH 43230-2700. The catalogue is also accessible free of charge on the Kolbe & Fanning website at

The firm’s website has been recently upgraded and modernized and will debut in early August. The site will feature easy payment options and a substantial listing of numismatic literature available for outright sale, which will be augmented on a regular basis.


George Kolbe forwarded this announcement about the newly updated Kolbe & Fanning web site. -Editor

Kolbe Fanning web site masthead

After months of planning and work, Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers LLC are pleased to unveil their new and improved website. Numismatic researchers and bibliophiles are invited to visit and review new and enhanced features, including:

  • An online, illustrated catalogue of rare and desirable numismatic works available for immediate sale, which will be added to regularly
  • The ability to conduct sophisticated searches for wanted titles or browse particular categories
  • The ability to place orders online and to pay by credit card or by PayPal (as well as the ability to hold items for payment by check)
  • Our latest mail-bid or public auction catalogue in PDF format
  • Press releases and other Kolbe & Fanning announcements
  • Information on consignments, a glossary of book terms and other material.

The new and improved website is managed by Bibliopolis, perhaps the premier firm providing e-commerce website services to hundreds of antiquarian booksellers in the United States and elsewhere. Among its many renowned clients are Argosy Bookstore, William Reese Company, and the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America.

At the moment, a bit more than 400 titles are available for sale from the site. Kolbe & Fanning intends to add to this list on a regular basis, making available for immediate purchase a wide variety of numismatic titles. Kolbe & Fanning handles numismatic books from all periods and in all languages, spanning the entire field of numismatic literature. Come see what we have to offer.

David Fanning adds:

If you go to and find the old site, your computer is probably using a cached copy and you simply need to reload the page to see the updated site.


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 1, No 4, September 24, 1998, “Internet Book Auction”
This reminded me just how venerable The E-Sylum is, for note how the editor felt constrained to explain"back in the cradle age of the Internet"just what e-bay might be!

Longtime NBS member and colonial coin researcher Dan Freidus has several items of numismatic literature (mostly American) on sale at the ebay internet auction site. Write to him at for more information.

There were only five short articles in that issue. Talk about starting small! -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: INTERNET BOOK AUCTION (


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 13, No 24, June 13, 2010, “Quiz Answer: How Many Different Mint Buildings?”
The E-Sylum at its best, aggregating the knowledge from its more than 1000 subscribers in order to answer a deceptively difficult question.

Carson City Mint

Mark Borckardt writes:

That was a great question, and it is subject to interpretation. Here is my answer, even though the actual buildings were not authorized by the U.S., in a couple cases.

1. First Philadelphia Mint
2. Second Philadelphia Mint
3. Third Philadelphia Mint
4. Fourth Philadelphia Mint
5. Denver Mint
6. First San Francisco Mint (beginning in 1854)
7. Second San Francisco Mint
8. Third San Francisco Mint
9. West Point Mint
10. Charlotte Mint
11. Dahlonega Mint
12. New Orleans Mint
13. Carson City Mint
14. The Dalles, Oregon
15. The Denver Mint of Clark, Gruber was intended to be operated as a United States Mint, although the government produced no actual coins at that facility.
16. The U.S. Assay Office in San Francisco, operated by Augustus Humbert absolutely qualifies
17. The “Fugio” Mint where the 1787 Fugio cents were produced.

I have attached illustrations of 16 of those 17 listed. The combination of "building facilities" and "authorized" pose the challenge. Does that mean "authorized to build," or "authorized to occupy?"

For example, the San Francisco Assay Office occupied by Augustus Humbert when the US Assay gold coins were produced may have been a previous structure that the government authorized Humbert to occupy, rather than a new building constructed for the purpose.

Also, we could add "Harper's cellar" to the list for the 1792 half dismes, if that is where they were struck. Then there are the Nova Constellatio patterns. Continental dollars (or whatever they are) could also be included.

If the Charlotte Mint burned down before coinage began (and I have never heard of that before) was rebuilt, was it also reauthorized? If not, then it doesn't count as two, only as one. The only southern mint that burned down, to the best of my knowledge, was Dahlonega, but that was long after coinage ended.

Click here to view all of Mark's U.S. Mint building illustrations on our Flickr archive (Many thanks to Mark and also to John Salyer for uploading these):

New Orleans Mint

These types of articles are the hardest to edit, but often the most satisfying and productive. It really is amazing how much knowledge E-Sylum readers have, and it is a pleasure to act as a clearinghouse for settling interesting and difficult questions. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: QUIZ ANSWER: HOW MANY DIFFERENT U.S. MINT BUILDINGS? (


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 11, No 36, September 7, 2008, “Dick Johnson on Electrotypes”
Another wonderful function of The E-Sylum, providing a forum for an expert to provide a plain-English explanation of an abstruse topic.


Jonathan was particularly concerned about the wax coating on this piece. He said "I've shown these to several people, and nobody seems to know what to make of them." This is understandable. Electroforming, the electrolysis process, and even electrotypes are one of the least understood concepts of all numismatics. This is why I have joined with numismatist John Kraljevich in the preparation of a monograph on the subject, Electrogalvanic Casting In Numismatics. This has been mentioned previously in E-Sylum (vol 9, no 44, art 19, October 29, 2006).

This was mentioned prior to the publication of one of the few (and best!) articles on the subject. Red Book guru Kenneth Bressett wrote "The Nature and Use of Electrotype Reproductions" which appeared in the now defunct ANA Journal, spring issue 2007. Well worth obtaining that issue for reading that article alone.

An electrogalvanic mold is the pattern for casting electrotypes or galvanos. The pattern can be most any composition. The U.S. Mint was using iron in the 1850s; the British Royal Mint was using iron as late as 1886. But the pattern can be plaster, any other metal, or even carved wood (the later has to be specially treated to close all the tiny pores in the wood). A wax pattern is usually cast in plaster before it is used in the electrogalvanic process.

The pattern must be specially prepared: (1) the surface to be reproduced is coated with bronze power to make it electrically conductive -- this also acts as a release agent to remove the casting afterwards; (2) it is wired, two copper wires are attached to the pattern's surface to carry the electric current to a bus bar above the tank where the electrolysis takes place, these also support the pattern and its galvanic casting while it is in the tank; and (3) the area where no deposition is to take place is coated with wax, this is a stop-off (the British call this a resist).

The wax on Jonathan's electroform is this resistant material still intact. It covers the entire back, and the portion of the front, the flange, where no metal is to be deposited. If this were not done the metal would deposit on both sides, all around and entomb the desired electroform.

The wired and prepared pattern is immersed in an electrolyte solution in the tank. This solution is slightly acidic but also contains cyanide. Electrotypers have experimented for decades to replace the deadly cyanide, but found it is best to use in electrolysis. The solution must also contain ions of the metal to be deposited. Most metals can be electroformed. In numismatics it is the same as coinage metals, gold, silver, copper. The process is the same as goldplating, silverplating, copperplating. (Other metals are plated in the jewelry field, or even chromium plating in industry.)

A tank large enough to contain the suspended pattern contains the electrolyte solution. It also must have anodes present. If you are creating a copper electrotype, you must have several pure copper anodes suspended in the solution as well. Separate tanks for each metal. The anodes are sacrificial -- they wear away like a bar of soap -- ions of the copper in the anode pass into the solution and deposit on the pattern's treated surface, this is the cathode, when the electric current is turned on.

The current must be a low voltage direct current and must form a complete circuit. A rectifier converts AC current to DC and is wired to bars from which the anodes are suspended. The current passes into the anodes then into the solution, onto the cathode pattern, up the copper wires to the bus bar and back to the rectifier. Circuit completed.

It is fun to watch gold or silverplating. It changes the color of the anodic metal in about 15 seconds. But usually it requires about three days to deposit enough metal, say a 1/16th inch, to give the electroform enough strength so it won't malform. This form is also called a galvano. After that time the ensemble of pattern and electroform are removed from the tank.

They are separated. If any opening is found a screwdriver is inserted between the mold and the cast galvano. It is pried open a little more. The electrotypers' trick of the trade is applied. Compressed air is blown into this opening and the two snap apart.

Jonathan's electroform is negative. As a negative mold it makes a positive cast.. (Casting always reverses polarity.) His photo shows a hanger. This was not used in the electrolysis process; it was intended to hang on a wall. How much more realistic to have the original two copper wires intact.

If Jonathan can prove the provenance of this piece back to Pinches, it may have been the original one Pinches used in 1849 to make the first Waterloo Medals. However, once you have one of these medals anyone with electroforming equipment and the required skill could copy it by creating the pattern for casting these medals anew. Unlike foundry casts, however, subsequent electroformed castings do not shrink, they are the exact same size as the original, so size is not a diagnostic.

Operating a successful electrolysis is not easy. There are a many variables, chemical composition, pH, temperature, placement of the pattern in relation to the anodes, the electric circuit, the ionic balance. It takes considerable skill. That is why you will not find many electroformed copies.

Possibly Jonathan's pattern could have been made in the United States. It could have been made by one of the New England silverware firms (1850s) or by New York City electrotyper Samuel H. Black as early as 1859. Or by a specialized electroforming firm as early as 1884. We have a list of a dozen American electrotypers and are compiling the known electrotypes they made.

The most important thing you should remember about electroforming -- it replicates minute detail. In comparison with other methods of making numismatic items: foundry casting reproduces detail down to 1/100 of an inch, die striking reproduces detail down to 1/1000th of an inch, but electroforming reproduces detail down to the width of an atom!

Dick Johnson is a regular fixture in The E-Sylum, providing some content for nearly every issue. Some of his items are among my favorites as well. Few people in numismatics today have the depth of knowledge and experience at his level. It is a pleasure to be able to pass some of his wisdom on to a new generation of numismatists. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: DICK JOHNSON ON ELECTROTYPES (


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Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 4, No 38, September 16, 2001, “September 11”
A poignant reminder that The E-Sylum sometimes covers news that transcends the purely numismatic.

A firsthand account of Tuesday's tragic events was posted to the internet (and copied to the Colonial Coins mailing list) as the day unfolded by E-Sylum subscriber Eric Cheung. Some excerpts:

"I haven't yet gone off to Stanford yet but I will be doing just that in a week and a half. I live down around City Hall in Manhattan and it's a pretty commercial area; at this time in the morning there's normally quite some commotion down here particularly since everyone is trying to get to work.

I just heard a rumble that was about twenty seconds long. ... A couple minutes later, my mom came into my room and told me a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.

In utter disbelief, I kicked out of my bedsheets and looked out the window and saw lots of people running around in the streets heading up Broadway away from the explosion. I also checked out the living room and saw CNN extensively covering this disaster.

About eight or ten minutes later, ... I heard a huge explosion as the legs of my bed and the floor of my 9th floor apartment shook.

The first world trade center collapsed down to the bottom...

I walked not ten feet from my neighbor's apartment when I heard an even louder rumble. My neighbors summoned me to return to the apartment, and in the last second as I dashed to the window, I saw the final section of World Trade Center 2 tumble straight down into the ground. My neighbors and mother were hysterical. Moments later the debris and ash of the aftermath rose into the blazingly sunny sky.

I returned to my apartment about 10:28, the hallways in my building filling with smoke. I continued down the hallway where there are windows every ten feet or so, four or five in all down about a hundred feet corridor. There was white dust atop every roof I could see, and it looked like a snowstorm had just hit us, or radioactive waste from a nuclear explosion had just rained down upon us. After a while, the two look the same, and are both frightening and frustrating in equal magnitude."

Subsequent issues held a number of articles discussing the impact of the event on numismatics and numismatics. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: SEPTEMBER 11 (

To read one of the following week's summaries of events, see: SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 AND ITS AFTERMATH (


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 8, No 31, July 17, 2005 , “John J. Ford, Jr."Information Hoarder?” and
Vol 8, No 29, July 10, 2005, “Q. David Bowers on John J. Ford”
Glimpses of two very different sides of the personality of one America’s foremost"and most controversial"numismatists.

As noted previously in The E-Sylum, Kleeberg and Prof. T. V. Buttrey, Jr. maintain a website about western gold bars and Mexican gold bars. On the site Kleeberg has published his viewpoint on Ford and the gold bars. With permission I've excerpted a couple sections from his most recent piece mentioning the dearth of Ford's published writing on numismatics, which Dick Johnson and others have lamented.

Kleeberg writes: "Yet his career resulted in him being remembered not for the work he did, but for his notorious habit of hoarding information and never publishing it;"

"From Olga Raymond he bought the rights to Wayte Raymond’s publications. Unfortunately, since Ford had a phobia about publishing, this resulted in the deep sixing of many useful numismatic series, such as the Standard Catalogue and the Coin Collector’s Journal."

"Ford’s coin collection and his library were auctioned beginning in 2003. Collectors were astonished. Here were coins, paper money, books, and research papers that they had not seen for half a century. Many researchers were deeply angered by Ford’s dog in the manger attitude, which had hidden away from them items that were vital for their research."

[Aside from his auction cataloging, Ford published relatively few articles and nothing of book length, with the exception of his 1967 report to a committee of the Professional Numismatists Guild investigating allegations of false USAOG coins; "The Franklin Hoard of United States Assay Office of Gold Coins: An Answer to Eric P. Newman." Ford tightly controlled the distribution of these, making originals very rare today (although photocopies have been made over the years).

I can't speak for other research efforts, but when I was involved in the research that came together in Fred Reed's book on U.S. Encased Postage Stamps, Ford made available an inventory of his collection and contributed information on how EPS could be altered or switched. Certainly, from other accounts I've heard or read Ford was selective about what information he would disclose and to whom. Just as certainly, no one is ever obligated to share their information with others.

I'm sure our readers have thoughts on the subject. It must be frustrating to work on a research project knowing that information that would be useful is not being made available. -Editor]

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: JOHN J. FORD, JR. - INFORMATION HOARDER? (

Ford has been THE #1 most controversial topic in the history of The E-Sylum, and that tradition continues after his death. -Editor

"Briefly, JJF is one of the most important, most influential figures in American numismatics. It is an irony that John has not been inducted into the ANA Hall of Fame, nor did he appear on the list of “Numismatists of the Century” compiled by COINage magazine, from a survey conducted a few years back. While the COINage survey is history, I herewith nominate JJF to the ANA Board of Directors for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. And yet, JJF has had his share of controversy. The “situation” concerning certain Western ingots and assay bars is still a matter of study and debate"and must be mentioned here, lest readers overlook the main thrust of this article and wonder why I didn’t mention it. So there! John might be but a footnote in numismatics today, had he not miraculously walked away from an airplane crash in the late 1940s.

Returning to the “most influential” part, JJF single-handedly revolutionized the techniques of American coin catalogues" introducing, with the help of Walter Breen, many comments about history, mintage techniques, numismatic tradition, and more. If you are in the slightest doubt of this, take a New Netherlands catalogue from, say, 1955, and compare it with the catalogues of anyone else. There is no comparison in readability or the transmitting of information."

"In the 1950s, basic information about rare coins was difficult to locate easily, apart from what might be found in the current edition of the Guide Book. Building a library of old books (there were not many new ones) was not an option, it was a necessity for anyone interested in gaining knowledge and expertise. Most dealers were not interested in such things, which provided great advantages for those who were."

"John was a virtual walking encyclopedia of numismatic knowledge. It would be very difficult to mention anything in the American or Canadian series for which he did not have information."

"I made it a point to attend most of the New Netherlands sales in New York City in the mid-1950s. At one particular event there was a marvelous collection of Hard Times tokens, anchored by multiple examples of the rare variety known as Low-1, with the portrait of Andrew Jackson. John Ford was after some of these for his own account, and so was Donald Miller, the latter also being a fine friend of mine, and an attorney from Indiana, Pennsylvania.

This particular sale was held high on the penthouse terrace of a New York City hotel, in which there were meeting rooms and also a bar, a setting ideal for a wedding reception or some other event. Don had a few drinks too many, and while passing a $500 bill around to the bar patrons to whet their interest and curiosity, found to his consternation that it had disappeared" nowhere in sight, no one knew where it was. To this day it is probably still missing.

Miller was after one of the rarer sub-varieties of Low-1, as was Ford. I don’t remember all the details, but whatever happened, the two became involved in a vicious argument and shouting match on the open terrace outside of the bar. Miller grabbed Ford and pushed him against a low wall at the side of the terrace, with the street visible many floors below. A great struggle took place, and it seemed that Ford was about to be thrown to eternity, when a bunch of bystanders, including me, rushed to the scene and pulled Miller away, in effect saving Ford. If Ford had nine lives and used one up in the airplane accident, a second was used here! Luckily, calmness soon prevailed and the auction continued as planned. "

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: Q. DAVID BOWERS ON JOHN J. FORD (


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Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 10, No 42, October 21, 2007, “Alan Weinberg on the Stack’s John J. Ford XX and XXI Sales”
Insightful commentary on two unforgettable numismatic auctions by an advanced numismatist

Alan V. Weinberg writes: "Wow! I've just last night returned from the final two catalogued and scheduled John J Ford, Jr. Stack's auctions in New York in the penthouse of the Le Parker-Meridien Hotel across 57th Street from Stack's offices.

"These sales have continued since October 2003. It seems like just yesterday that an enthusiastic Larry Stack called me and others to announce the coup. Ford had personally told me many times that his collection would not come up for auction for 20 years after he died. So much for the plans of mice and men.

"These two final sales were a fitting close to this historic four-year offering. The audience in the penthouse, with a full view of Central Park and the New York skyline, was enthusiastic and largely filled. For the first time, everyone had a table top. Some of the active attendees and bidders were Bill Anton, Tony Terranova, Russell Augustin, Don Kagin, Fred Holabird, John Kraljevich, Ron Karp, John Dannreuther, Martin Paul, Scott Rubin and private collectors unknown to me. And of course master cataloguer Mike Hodder, one of the two men singularly responsible for the Ford sales being so successful and historic - the other being Larry Stack.

"The phone bank was very active with many phone bidders being quite successful in their pursuits. A phone bidder may be at some distance or may be nearby in his hotel room, not wishing his prospective competitors to know who's bidding. Additionally, Larry Stack and Bruce Hagen handled a dozen or more selected clients' "floor bids" and cell phone bids which were bid aggressively and successfully.

"There was some pre-sale speculation about part XXI (the Ingot sale) not being successful due to the controversial nature of many ingots and their Paul Franklin provenance. So it was something of a surprise to watch this vigorously contested auction succeed with every lot selling for record prices. A dated Wiegand $20 gold ingot for $87,500 hammer to Don Kagin, a unique Meyers gold $18 ingot for $75K hammer to bidder 890 underbid by Tony Terranova, and so many others in the $20K- $30K range.

"I know little of obsolete paper currency but there were certainly more than a few knowledgeable bidders for this group with the California Salt Lake Mail Line $50 at $32,500 hammer to agent Bruce Hagan bidding for phone bidder 174, a Utah Territory currency copper plate hammering for $24K to phone bidder 429 and an interesting Brother Jonathan Steamship cabin ticket for $3,500 hammer to Fred Holabird underbid by John Kraljevich. Bill Anton, Kagin-Holabird, Ron Karp and Tony Terranova dominated the obsolete currency and paper ephemera among physically present floor bidders but the phone bidders were hugely successful too.

"The tokens, medals and Pioneer gold patterns really opened one's eyes. Standing out as undoubtedly the most unusual and aesthetically-pleasing item in the entire Ford collection was the gold nugget -encrusted hand-constructed 1850 San Francisco gold Alderman's medal which sold for a total $316,250 to Tony Terranova for a client, Larry Stack for himself, the underbidder. (JJF's favorite two medals were his silver John Jacob Astor Indian Peace Medal and this Alderman's medal )

This was the third highest auction price ever realized for an American medal, surpassed only by the Stack's-sold gold Zachary Taylor Congressional gold medal at $460K total two years ago and the Saint-Gaudens 1889 Centennial George Washington Inauguration medal in gold at $391K. The three 1850's Committee of Vigilance silver medals all sold to Don Kagin for $31,625 and $25,300 for the last two medals. It was only a few years ago that Kagin sold one for $7,500 to a California dealer!

"But there were some literally laughable auction results too - in a 'what were they thinking?' fashion : a set of three 1969-struck Empire City Mine fantasy tokens for $1,300 hammer, a set of three J.J. Conway restrike denominations, struck in 1956 and quite common on eBay, for (gasp!) $4,000 hammer. And to cap this off, how about two Unc specimens of the extremely common 1849 Liberty Head / kneeling miner brass game counters (I've seen 500 if I've seen 1) for $650 and $750 hammer to Kagin and Karp. What were the bidders thinking?

"Mid-way, Stack's set up a sumptuous Greek food buffet, thoughtful since the auction commenced at 5 PM and would go on into the late night. Could the influence of Christine Karstadt and American Numismatic Rarities have something to do with this? Yup.

"At the conclusion of the two Ford sales parts XX and XXI, Larry Stack and Mike Hodder bear-hugged each other in the auction room, clearly overjoyed that all their blood, sweat and tears resulted in magnificent results. It was more than just a higher gross. It was a vindication of the cataloguing effort, the sales and publicity effort, and a fitting final salute to a man they both knew very well - John Ford. Ford would have been proud.

[I understand that four members of the Ford family attended the sale. So it seems the market has spoken - the assay ingots, several of which had been in question, sold for record amounts. Skeptics may well note that it only takes two fools to create a record price, but that can be said of any auction. The high prices paid for relatively common pieces described by Alan could be cited as evidence of the presence of fools among the bidders, yet this phenomenon is not uncommon in big-name collection sales, where bidders have been known to overpay as a premium for the name.

Since the beginning of The Great Debate over assay bars it's been clear that the controversy has long legs. The questions initially raised many years ago will continue to be debated into the future; this sale is only the latest episode in a long saga. It will be interesting to see how events unfold from here.

I look forward to purchasing the remaining hardbound versions of the Ford sale catalogs to complete my set. Despite the controversies and mysteriously missing items the sales remain a landmark record of a legendary never-to-be-seen again collection. They are a core holding of an American numismatic library and I expect the set will remain in high demand for generations. Congratulations to Mike Hodder and Stack's for a job well done. -Editor]


To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: ALAN WEINBERG ON THE STACK'S JOHN J. FORD XX AND XXI SALES (


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 3, No 40, October 1, 2000, “Constructive Criticism of Sandham”
This article provides a reminder that even so great a numismatist as Alfred Sandham sometimes took his licks from the critics!

In response to the topic of "Devastating Reviews", Gilbert Ray Malone writes: "Perhaps the review discussed below does not meet all the criteria set out by Tom Fort; however, it probably falls somewhere between "constructive criticism" and "published scorn".

I have assembled a small grouping of original numismatic literature to be displayed at a future show in Canada. The title of the exhibit is "Coins, Tokens and Medals of the Dominion of Canada: by Alfred Sandham -- A CRITICAL REVIEW." The centerpiece of the display is the neatly and thoroughly annotated copy of Sandham's book used by Professor Charles E. Anthon (editor AJN) in writing his detailed, scholarly and sometimes cutting review of Sandham's book in the May 1869 issue of the AJN:

1. "we intend to pay him the highest complement in our power, by pointing out the deficiencies"

2. "Looking at present edition as a first draught merely, we repeat our call for a second one"

3. "Our good Sandham must have 'nodded' over this page."

At times, Anthon verged on elitism: "And to Mr. Printer we would observe that 'Boquet', as he uniformly spells it, savors not of Ville Marie, ci-devant town of Novelle France; that his Latin, in the legends of the Medals more particularly, is often lame; and his English, as to orthography and punctuation, sometimes blind."

My display is an attempt to document the reaction of the numismatic community to publication of Sandham's book. In the June 1868 issue of the AJN, Sandham's book was announced with a very attractive broadside printed in color. In March 1869, a card was inserted into the AJN advertising the book - PRICE $1.00 American Currency. Many collectors haven't seen these inserts since they were frequently discarded when the AJN was bound.

Sandham did not heed Anthon's call for an immediate second edition; however, he did issue a supplement in 1872 that incorporated information provided by Anthon. Sandham's numbering system would continue to be used by cataloguers of Canadian coins for about 15 years. In the November 17-18, 1879 Bangs & Co. auction of Professor Anthon's collection, Anthon catalogued his own Canadian cabinet by Sandham number. In 1884, Woodward referenced Sandham's work in cataloguing the Canadian portion of the famous J. N. T. Levick Collection. Levick was a co-editor of the AJN at the time Anthon wrote his review.

A theme of the display is the parallel development of numismatics in the U.S. and Canada. Sandham, in 1872, started the Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic Journal, which he edited for about 4 years.

We don't know if Sandham was stung by Anthon's criticism. Sandham had taken full responsibility for the book including drawing all the coins for the eight full-page plates. As R. W. McLachlan notes in his sketch of Alfred Sandham (CANJ, Jan. 1911), Sandham received only a regular common school education -- cut short. In fairness, Anthon's review also contained much praise for Sandham. However, we do know that Sandham's book was not a financial success - 300 copies were printed, 250 bound and only 100 sold."

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM OF SANDHAM (


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 12, No 34, August 23, 2009, “Swoger Sues over Numismatic Research Use”
Thus proving The E-Sylum covers it all, from the momentous to the quixotic!

Page 44 of last week's COIN World carried an article of sure interest to numismatic researchers. Researcher and author Bill Swoger is suing two coin dealers for what he says is their failure to pay for the use of his numismatic research. The Los Angeles Times picked up the story as well, an unusual move for a mainstream newspaper. Here are some excerpts from the article. -Editor The Brasher Doubloon is steeped in historic reverence and mystique. It dates to Colonial America and the dawning of the new federal government, when Spanish gold doubloons circulated alongside other foreign gold and silver as part of New World commerce.

Seven of them remain and are sanctified as the first truly American gold coins. That fact, along with their distinctively American design and Brasher's friendship with Washington, attached a permanent legacy to the coins.

The coins are nearly identical, but one of them is first among equals. And it is that coin, worth $15 when Washington was president but most recently sold for nearly $3 million, that is at the heart of a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court. Rare coin researcher William Swoger says he told the coin's owners that he had "specialized information" about the coin and that they reneged on finalizing a contract to pay him in exchange for the information.

Orange County coin dealer Steven Contursi and his Northern California partner, Donald Kagin, teamed up to buy the Brasher Doubloon in 2005 for $2.99 million, then the second-highest price ever paid for an American coin. Swoger's lawsuit alleges that he approached Kagin and Contursi several months ago and told them the coin was worth much more than they realized.

The key, he told them, is that the coin wasn't the first of the seven struck by Brasher beginning in 1787. Contrary to the prevailing view in numismatic circles, Swoger says it was the last, and probably not struck until 1793.

That later date is crucial, Swoger says, because this coin was fractionally heavier than the others and made to conform to a 1793 act of Congress that established weight standards for gold coins in the new republic. The other six coins are of identical weight and predate the formation of the new government, he says.

Kagin and Contursi "knew they had a unique coin," says Richard Herman, a Newport Beach attorney who is representing Swoger. "They knew it was very valuable, very rare. But they thought it was the first one [in the series] and not the last one. Turns out that makes all the difference in the world. One's a Colonial coin made by a jeweler, and it's a very nice coin, but the other is the first coin made for circulation under a law of the United States. That's heavy-duty."

According to the lawsuit, Swoger informed the owners that he had discovered information that would make their coin much more valuable and asked for a $500,000 fee. They countered with $250,000, the suit alleges, and then asked for a meeting at which Swoger would disclose the information.

Swoger met with Kagin, explained his thesis and was given a gold coin valued at $35,000 as a down payment, the suit alleges. Swoger alleges Kagin said he and Contursi would prepare a contract but never did. Swoger is suing for millions of dollars in damages.

I followed this up with a comment on just how much numismatic research is worth, a topic of interest to many E-Sylum readers. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: SWOGER SUES OVER NUMISMATIC RESEARCH USE (


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 6, No 8, February 23, 2003, “Sheldon’s Photo Project”
Dr. Sheldon’s other classification system, not so much “Mint State” as “State of Nature.”

David Fanning writes: "I was reading an article on the Atlantic Monthly online about Yale's "Sex Week," when, oddly enough, the author started talking about William Sheldon.

[Sheldon is the author of "Early American Cents", the classic reference in the field. His photo project has been discussed previously in The E-Sylum (Volume 3, Number 47, November 12, 2000, among other references) -Editor]

Fanning goes on: "I knew about Sheldon's research, but I was interested in seeing how this person described it:

"...But nudity does figure in another remarkable Yale scandal, one in which I was both exposed and exposer, so to speak, which took place a few blocks north of Skull and Bones, at the Payne Whitney Gymnasium.

"This was 'The Great Ivy League Nude Posture-Photo Scandal.' Yale was not alone in being victimized by the posture-photo scandal: just about every Ivy League and Seven Sisters school from the 1930s to the 1960s was inveigled into allowing photos of nude or lingerie-clad freshmen to be taken and then transferred to the 'research archives' of a megalomaniac pseudo-scientist, W. H. Sheldon. Sheldon believed that the secret of all human character and fate could be reduced to a three-digit number derived from various 'postural relationships' (the photos were taken with metal pins affixed to the spine to define the arc of curvature). I was the reporter who discovered, in 1995, that all these nude photos of America's elite--tens of thousands of them, anyway--were available for viewing by 'qualified researchers' in an obscure archive of the Smithsonian Institution.

"I don't know if this can be classified as a sex scandal, exactly, but it demonstrates the tendency of a certain strain of academic to find a way to abstract from an actual body to a body of mathematical relationships--to pure number rather than impure flesh, if possible."

The more one learns about numismatics and numismatists, the more interesting the story gets. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: SHELDON'S PHOTO PROJECT (


Come to the Whitman Publishing booth at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money, in Chicago, August 16"20, 2011. Meet your favorite authors, browse the latest hobby books, talk to other collectors, and study amazing super-rare coins on display. We’ll see you there!


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 8, No 54, December 25, 2005, “Whatever Became of Don Taxay?
The article that proves two things: the editor of The E-Sylum works on Christmas Day, and Don Taxay remains the Amelia Earhart of numismatics.

Five important works on North American numismatics were written by Don Taxay:

"Counterfeit, Mis-Struck and unofficial U.S. Coins" (1963)
"The U.S. Mint and Coinage" (1966)
"An Illustrated History of U.S. Commemorative Coinage" (1967)
"Money of the American Indians (1970)
"Scott's Comprehensive Catalogue and Encyclopedia of United States Coins (1971)

After this burst of scholarship, Taxay faded from the scene. In the Colonial Coins mailing list this week, Ray Williams asked "Speaking of Don Taxay, does anyone know whatever happened to him? He just disappeared and fell off the edge of the earth..."

Various stories and rumors were mentioned, ranging from reports that Taxay had moved to India, had a sex change operation, lives among the Seminole Indians somewhere in the Everglades of Florida, or tends bar or dances on stage in Las Vegas. Any, all or none of these may be true. While entertaining, perhaps some of our readers can shed further light on the subject. When is the last time anyone recalls hearing from him? What were his plans?

Everyone loves a mystery, and this topic is one of my favorites as well. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: WHATEVER BECAME OF DON TAXAY? (

To read some of the follow-up responses, see: DON TAXAY WHERE ARE YOU? (


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 5, No 25, June 16, 2002, “Breen and Astrology”
A reminder that numismatics was only one of several enthusiasms for the great bearded polymath.

Carl Honore writes: "I'll bet you didn't know that Walter Breen wrote an article entitled "Sherlock Holmes's Horoscope"

In Sybil Leek's Astrology Journal of January 1971 there appeared an interesting astrological chart for Sherlock Holmes written by Walter Breen. This item was subsequently reprinted in "A Sherlock Holmes Compendium" edited by Peter Haining.

Astrology was one of Walter's many varied hobbies and it was only natural to try to do a chart for one who was as mentally astute as Walter was. It's both interesting and fun to read"

Carl adds: "While we're on the subject, one peculiar Numismatic reference is to be found in "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual", wherein the story is told in the past tense by Holmes sitting in 221B Baker Street... "...some old rusty discs" which later turn out to be coins found in a box at the Musgrave estate in an underground vault next to Brunton the butler who had suffocated...

Other references to Numismatics include "the Red Headed League in which Jabez Wilson is paid in gold sovereigns. I just thought this was fun -- can any of you find others?"

[Well, it turns out someone has already gone to the effort of compiling numismatic references in Shakespeare. See "Coins in Shakespeare. A Numismatic Guide." 67pp, illus. by Engstrom, J.E., Dartmouth College Museum Publications, New Hampshire,1964. -Editor]

Breen's probably the second most controversial figure after John Ford. Another regular topic. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: BREEN AND ASTROLOGY (


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 11, No 35, August 31, 2008, “More on the Castine Hoard”
The E-Sylum is all about breaking news"but with this article about one of America’s great coin hoards"it is also about the distant past.

Tom Kays writes:

Last weeks featured Web page: CASTINE AND THE OLD COINS FOUND THERE as suggested by Ray Williams includes a numismatic mystery. In the E-Sylum photo one of the eighteen coins pictured is dated 1769. Yet the Castine Hoard, if associated with Baron Jean Vincent dAbbadie de St. Castin who departed for France circa 1703, must have closed much earlier than 1769 while he was still in America.

At the centennial of the hoards discovery, some of the original coins on loan from the Maine Historical Society were gathered by Sydney P. Noe, then Librarian of the ANS, and put on display in New York City. See Numismatic Notes and Monographs #100, The Castine Deposit: An American Hoard, American Numismatic Society, New York, 1942 for a detailed accounting of the coins with individual plates.

Q. David Bowers American Coin Treasures and Hoards, published by Bowers and Merena Galleries, 1997 gives a good sense of the paucity of early American coin hoards, so that understanding the Castine Hoard is key to knowing what coins circulated in the old Massachusetts Bay Colony which then included coastal Maine. Also see The Colonial NewsLetter #128 of August 2005, Second Thoughts on a First Rate Hoard: Castine Revisited.


To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON THE CASTINE HOARD (


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 10, No 13, April 1, 2007, “Blockbuster Announcement: ANA, ANS to Merge. Duplicate Sale Planned”
In the great journalistic tradition of April 1 articles that brought us stories such as the profile of the Indian Ocean islands of “Sans Serif,” a hilarious send-up of merger mania in numismatics.

Following on the heels of the recent merger of leading numismatic auction houses Stack's and American Numismatic Rarities, the two leading U.S. nonprofit numismatic organizations announced this weekend that a long-rumored merger has come to pass. In a joint statement, the leadership of the American Numismatic Society (founded 1858) and the American Numismatic Association (founded 1891) acknowledged the financial and organizational obstacles that each has encountered in recent years, but focused on many positive aspects of the combined organization.

"These past months have been both draining and exhilarating for our boards and top officers. The secret meetings, late-night negotiation sessions, and endless discussions of details often devolved into recriminations and tears. We are clearly two organizations that care deeply for our members, history and traditions. Yet the talks were infused with a sense of great hope and promise for the future, which we feel is being realized today. We know many of our members will feel the same sets of contrasting emotions that all of us did in coming to this joint decision, one which we trust and pray that in the end the numismatic community will embrace with the same sense of hope for the future."

The new organization will be called the American Numismatic Trust. No staff layoffs are planned, but headcount will be reduced through attrition. Effective immediately, the popular glossy magazine-format monthly publications Numismatist and American Numismatic Society Magazine will be combined into one 25%-larger issue called simply "Coin". Organizational news will be published mostly electronically. The separate ANA and ANS web sites will be merged by year end.

The biggest surprise concerns the new organization's headquarters building, which had been rumored to be the biggest stumbling block in the negotiations. Although both sides had dug in their heels in defense of their existing operations in Colorado Springs and New York City, a compromise was finally brokered by a team of angel backers led by well-known dealer Q. David Bowers, which donated an historic building at 225 N. Holliday St. in Baltimore, Maryland.

Erected in 1813 by Rembrandt Peale, son of the famed portraitist Charles Willson Peale, it was the first building in the Western Hemisphere created to serve as a museum. After years of mixed success, in 1830 the building was acquired by the city of Baltimore and later became the home of "Number 1 Colored Primary School". In subsequent years the building was used for storage and fell into disrepair. But with today's announcement, the grand building, just blocks from Baltimore's famed Inner Harbor, stands to rise again as a leading museum.

ANS leaders contacted privately admitted that "we looked around and realized we hadn't gotten around to unpacking all this stuff from our last move anyway, so what the heck, we might as well move again." The ANS' current exhibit at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York will remain for at least two years, when a new satellite exhibit will occupy a special place at the new Museum of American Finance at 48 Wall Street. The Museum's founder John E. Herzog said he was "delighted with the new arrangement, which ensures that many numismatic treasures will remain available to the public here in New York."

In Colorado Springs, CO, a similar arrangement has been made with the trustees of Colorado College, which will keep the main level of the old ANA building open as a museum after the purchasing the building and grounds by year end. Former ANA employees staying in Colorado Springs will move to a smaller suite of rented offices nearby. In a similar move, New York-based employees will move to smaller rented space while the ANS building is emptied and sold.

Funds from the building sales and planned auctions of duplicates from the organizations' famed collections and libraries will replenish the combined organization's endowment fund.

Officials stated "We're shooting for a grand opening of the new building Friday, August 1, 2008, in conjunction with the "World's Fair of Money" convention planned by the ANA for the Baltimore Convention Center."

American Numismatic Association elections, scheduled to begin next month, have been cancelled, and the terms of both Executive Directors have been extended through December 31, 2012. "At first we kidded about holding a kickboxing tournament at the 2007 Numismatic Literary Guild Bash to determine who gets the top post, but some people didn't get the joke. I dunno, they're both tough cookies - we coulda sold some serious tickets."

This was one of those late-night directly-into-the-keyboard items I somehow came up with while putting the issue to bed. I went to bed myself with a smile on my face, even though in the end I resisted the urge to put in something about Chris Cipoletti and Ute Wartenberg-Kagin dancing cheek-to-cheek at the celebratory Social. It's one of my all-time favorite original articles. It set phones ringing across the country. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: BLOCKBUSTER ANNOUNCEMENT: ANA, ANS TO MERGE; DUPLICATE SALE PLANNED (


DAVID SKLOW - FINE NUMISMATIC BOOKS offers Mail Bid Sale No. 14 on October 15, 2011, including: Samuel Hatch priced and named sale Feb. 14, 1866 with addenda . PH: (719) 302-5686, FAX: (719) 302-4933. EMAIL: USPS: Box 6321, Colorado Springs, CO. 80934. Contact me for your numismatic literature needs!


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 3, No 26, June 25, 2000, Most Important Events in U.S. Numismatics
The E-Sylum is invaluable as a forum for opinion pieces. Whether you agree or disagree with the sentiments expressed, you have to be glad that there is a forum to express them.

In response to last week's question, Brad Karoleff writes: "My nominations for events that dramatically changed the face of numismatics over the last 100 ( or so ) years would include the following: ( in no particular order )

1. The publishing of The American Numismatist in 1888, later to become The Numismatist. The house organ of the American Numismatic Association, the bond that kept collectors in touch with what was going on in numismatics over the last century.

2. The formation of The American Numismatic Association in 1891.

3. The beginning of commemorative coinage in 1893 for the Columbian Expo.

4. The redesigning of our coinage with the influence of St. Gaudens.

5. The issuance of Pennyboards to get the average citizen interested in collecting coins.

6. Publication of the first Redbook, eventually replacing Raymond's Standard Price Guide as the leading pricing reference for coins.

7. Silver being removed from our coinage after 1964.

8. The BU Roll investment craze coupled with the 1955 double die cents and the 1960 small date cents being released. The average citizen could make serious money looking through change.

9. The Silver Certificate run.

10. The writing of the ANA grading guide and the formation of ANACS. Collectors now had somewhere to turn to see if their coins were authentic. The precursor to slabbing as photocertified coins were easily traded based on their assigned grade.

11. 1980 gold and silver rush. Many a fortune was made and lost in the bullion and rare coin markets.

12. Slabbing by PCGS and later NGC became all the rage. Coins were now the "same as a share of stock" and tradable sight unseen.

13. COIN WORLD was started. The largest circulating weekly in the hobby.

14. B. Max Mehl publishes the Star Rare Coin Encyclopedia and sells it to the general public who hopes to find the rare 1913 Liberty Nickel and get rich.

15. Publication of Early American Cents by Sheldon. The first modern variety identification guide written for the most popular coin to collect by variety- the large cent.

16. The formation of EAC and the publication of Pennywise. The first specialty club for collecting a specific type of coin with a journal to exchange information with other club members. The club and journal that formed the basis for all the others who have come after.

17. The Carson City Dollar sale by the government in 1972.

Everyone loves a list. These are great for starting a conversation and compiling information from people across the hobby. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: MOST IMPORTANT EVENTS IN U.S. NUMISMATICS (


Joel Orosz writes:

Vol 14, No 24, June 12, 2011, “John Dannreuther on Harry Bass”
You have to enjoy the article when one great numismatist writes about another.

Harry Bass was a man whose passion was United States gold coins. Starting in 1966, he began assembling a gold coin collection that would eventually include over 6,000 coins. Not only did he collect by date and mintmark, he collected by die variety and die state! Besides being the most complete die-variety and die-state collection of United States gold coins ever assembled, Harry's collection is also the finest-condition set of all time!

Harry Bass also had an incredible numismatic library. (This treasure also is part of the Foundation.) He often bought entire collections to obtain one book he desired. His duplicate books and catalogs were sold by noted bibliophile George Fredrick Kolbe, who had to break the 50 plus boxes into four separate sales.

I did not know Mr. Bass as well as I wished. Most of his coin buying took place in the 1960s and 1970s; however, I do have one Harry Bass story of note. When the Eliasberg gold coins were sold in 1982 by Bowers and Ruddy, the collection was not directly identified as such. It was called The United States Gold Coin Collection. It was not really a secret to most numismatists whose collection was being sold (the collection had been on display several times, including the Philadelphia Mint during the bicentennial celebration in 1976).

I had the good fortune to be seated next to Harry Bass for two days of lot viewing for this event. Mr. Bass brought a great deal of his coin collection to New York City for this auction. He would examine a lot in the auction, then pull out his coin and compare the two. I initially thought he was looking for coins that were upgrades to his examples, but I soon realized he was comparing die varieties and die states! Although I had not written anything on die varieties at the time, I was interested in them and Harry soon realized this.

Mr. Bass always shared information and was, on occasion, a practical joker. We were discussing the 1854 Dahlonega three-dollar issue and I made a comment about how rare the coin is with full denticles. Harry said that he would bring his three-dollar collection the next day and he had one to show me.

The next morning, I took my seat at viewing and started examining more coins. At some point, Harry said, "Oh, here's the 1854-D three-dollar coin we discussed." He handed me a nice Uncirculated coin that had almost no denticles! Not wanting to offend one of the greatest collectors of all time, I smiled and made some small talk about what a nice specimen he had of this elusive date. Harry started laughing and then handed me another coin " the correct one this time with full denticles, although not in as nice condition. We both laughed and I realized I had seen the humorous side to Harry as well as his choice Uncirculated 1854-D. Sorry about the digression, but I love to tell that story.

I wish I could take credit for this one - it originally appeared on the PCGS site. But these types of personal recollections are important records of numismatic history, and I try to include them in The E-Sylum whenever possible. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: JOHN DANNREUTHER ON HARRY BASS (


Dick Johnson writes:

Volume 7, Number 40, October 3, 2004: THE HISTORY OF COIN PRESSES
My Best-Of was the one most requested to be reprinted.

Dick Johnson writes: "We are glad Dan Gosling is back from his five-week dream vacation enumerated in last week's E-Sylum and is now asking questions. To answer his inquiry on Taylor & Challen coin presses, he need go to only one source: Chapter 14 of Denis R. Cooper's book "The Art and Craft of Coinmaking; A History of Minting Technology." Dan will find there a picture of a Taylor and Challen press on page 153 and the reason they were so popular at mints around the world ? they employed the knuckle-joint action to efficiently strike coins and could do this at a rapid rate (at the same time inserting the blank and ejecting the struck piece). All coining presses today that are not hydraulic employ this knuckle-joint action.

Perhaps a capsule history of the coining press would be useful for Dan (and perhaps all E-Sylum readers!).The first diestruck coins were made by hammer and anvil - no press. Similar hammered techniques continued for more than a thousand years. Leonardo da Vinci drew a press for striking coins, medals and seals in his notebooks in 1500. Da Vinci recognized you need a blank to strike so he put two presses back-to-back - one to blank, one to strike the design (with the same blow!). But da Vinci?s press was never built (until 20th century - IBM had one build from da Vinci's drawings, it is now in the Smithsonian Institution).

In 1506 an Italian, Donato Bramante (inspired by a fruit press) built a screw press but only did blanking on it. In 1550 Max Schwab of Augusburg built a workable screw press which could both blank and strike, and made other equipment (as rolling mills to roll metal strips for blanking). He tried but failed

to sell this equipment to mints in Germany and Italy. He succeeded, however, with the French who imported his equipment but met with resistance from French moneyers (who still made hammered coins).

By 1641 the screw press was finally in use at the Paris Mint but the same thing happened in England, where the first screw press arrived but was prevented to strike coins. England overruled the moneyers and had a screw press in use at the Royal Mint by 1652. [America obtained its first screw press for the 1652 Pine Tree Coinage]. The screw press was in universal use (and remained so until 1892 when it was entirely replaced by hydraulic presses).

It was a German mechanic, however, who revolutionized coining. Diedrich Uhlhorn (1764-1837) invented the knuckle-joint action press in 1812. He patented his invention (1817) and built a factory to sell his presses to national mints. He called his invention a "lever press" and sold 57 such presses to nine European mints by 1847.

In 1835 a Paris machinist, last name Thonnelier, also perfects a knuckle-joint press (similar to Uhlhorn's technology). He does not build these presses, instead he sells drawings and plans to build his style presses. The U.S. Mint bought Thonnelier's plans in 1833, and their first such press was built by Merrick, Agnew and Tyler; in1840 Franklin Peale rebuilds it. In each case the mints either had to build their own or hire "constructors." In 1858 an engineer at the U.S. Mint, David Gilbert, rebuilds their Thonnelier press for greater strength. Morgan & Orr was one of these constructors at the Philadelphia Mint. Joshua Morgan and Arthur Orr built these over three decades including a heavy duty coining press in 1874 (to accommodate a new steam engine installed at the mint).

The Paris Mint?s Thonnelier press was built by J.F. Caili et Cie, who act as agents and build these for European mints. Thus every Thonnelier press has a different nameplate, the name of the constructor (never "Thonnelier").

Meantime in 1862, at the Second International Industrial Exposition in London, two coining press manufacturers exhibited - Uhlhorn's sons, then in charge of the Uhlhorn factory, and Ralph Heaton, flush from acquiring all the Soho Mint equipment, purchased at auction in 1850 (who then used the name "Birmingham Mint"). As often happens at trade expos, these two press makers met and formed a consortium. Heatons get permission to build presses using Uhlhorn's technology. Heatons build presses for the Mandalay Mint in Burma by 1865 but build 12 Uhlhorn-style presses for their own Birmingham Mint.

Now Taylor and Challen were also coin press manufacturers, founded 1850 by Joseph Taylor, competitors to Ralph Heaton. They stepped up their activity and developed an improved coining press. This is what is shown in Cooper in chapter 14. They could supply complete press room equipment (as they did for the Sydney Mint, Australia).

Early in the 20th century, another German firm, Schuler, enters the manufacture of coin presses. Schuler presses are now in use around the world. They developed a new technology - instead of the dies on a vertical axis going up and down with blanks fed horizontally, one style of Schuler press uses a horizontal axis with gravity fed blanks vertically. They also developed "indexing" and a method of double striking (as for proof coinage).

In anticipation of tremendous need for new coins for the decimal conversion in the British Empire technicians at the Royal Mint in 1950 build 12 Uhlhorn-style presses in their workshop, still utilizing this 140-year old technology but with modern improvements.

Today coining presses are made in Germany (by Schuler, Grabenel), in Austria (by Reinhard & Fernau), in England (by Heaton, Taylor & Challen and Horden Mason & Edwards, now a division of America's Cincinnati Milacron), in Belgium (by Raskin), and in Sweden (by Arboga). Both national mints and private mints buy these presses as coining technology expands universally."

[Many thanks to Dick for his detailed submission. Every numismatist should become familiar with the basic history of coin presses. -Editor]

Another one of Dick's landmark contributions, which help make The E-Sylum so much more than just an e-newsletter. -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: THE HISTORY OF COIN PRESSES (


Dick Johnson also nominates:

Volume 7, Number 11, March 14, 2004: THE JANVIER DIE-ENGRAVING PANTOGRAPH

Dick Johnson writes: "First, Darryl Atchison should be thanked publicly for asking the questions he did about the Hill and Janvier reducing machines in last week's E-Sylum. This is so important to the technology of die making for all types of struck numismatic items. Numismatists should have a basic understanding of engraving, dies, die making and die striking. Most don't. Darryl, thank you for asking about something so important!

I have been studying die-making equipment for 35 years, since I was hired by Medallic Art Company in 1966. I stood in front of the three Janvier die-engraving pantographs in MAco's New York City plant for hours marveling at this ingenious mechanism. And when the plant moved to Danbury in 1972 and we had more room, the firm acquired four more reducing machines as these came on the market.

I have tracked the history of this vital mint equipment to discover the ingenuity of one man - Victor Janvier (1851- 1911). Imagine inventing a piece of equipment that every mint in the world HAD to have. He developed, literally, a money-making machine. And the mints of the world beat a path to his Paris workshop after he patented it in 1899 to acquire his machines. He, of course, was not the first, but he developed the most advanced and successful die-engraving pantograph.

In all, there have been 22 people, firms and mints who had a part in developing this equipment throughout history. It has gone through five stages. The first stage was little more than a rotating drill (with a string bow like a Boy Scout starting a fire). It was used for cameo cutting.

The second stage applied peddle power to the fixed drill or cutter (peddled like an old sewing machine) for early die cutting. In the third stage water or steam was added as the power source and devices were cut in dies and lettering would, of course, have to be added later with punches.

Here you have Matthew Boulton using these machines at his Soho Mint and when his partner, James Watt, retired, he made refinements to Boulton's machines. The nationalities of the machinists who made improvements were French, British, Belgian and later, German. The U.S.Mint first had a French Contamin pantograph in 1836, which was replaced by a British Hill machine in 1867, and the French Janvier in 1906.

By the third stage it was a 'controlled milling machine' to cut dies. The pattern had to rotate in sync (synchronization) with the diestock being cut, both revolving on separate axis. Both the tracing point and the cutting point start at the center. A problem existed, however, that as the tracing point widened its circular path, the cutting point revolved at the same speed. Janvier recognized that the tracing point should slow down and the cutting point should speed up because it also was cutting a greater path, it was doing more work.

Janvier solved this problem mechanically with twin cone belt drives with the cones pointing in opposite directions. One belt controlled the rotating axes, the other belt carried the variable speed to the spindle controlling the cutting point -- as the tracing point tracked a wider circle Janvier's mechanism increased the speed of the cutting point. It worked!

That mechanism in pantographs he manufactured made Janvier wealthy but not famous. Today national and private mints know the name Janvier for their die-engraving machines, but few others outside mint historians even know his first name (Victor) and what he actually accomplished.

Today we are in the fifth stage of this machine. Modern die-engraving pantographs are so sophisticated, they can raise or lower relief, they can flip a design in contraposition (a left facing portrait can be changed to face right), they can also alter the slope of the background - metalworkers call this 'camber' - a basin background can be flattened, or a flat background can be given a slight basin shape. But most important - all the detail in the pattern can still be reduced and cut into the die in direct proportion to each other.

There is a saying among medalmakers - "if it's in the model, it's in the medal!" Thanks to the die-engraving pantograph, but thanks mostly to Victor Janvier.

Will there be a sixth stage of this miraculous machine? If so, the United States Mint will certainly put it to use. U.S. Mint information officer Michael White told me this week the Mint has several milling machines in house they are studying. A feasibility study is also under way, he says, for the possibility of laser cutting of dies.

Stay tuned. Die cutting science is not over yet!"

[The March 16, 2004 issue of Numismatic News contains a Viewpoint article by Michael P. Lantz about a group of Janvier reduction machines built at the Denver Mint in 1969. -Editor]

As with so many of Dick's submissions, this was another top-notch summary of an obscure but important numismatic topic, -Editor

To read the complete original E-Sylum article, see: THE JANVIER DIE-ENGRAVING PANTOGRAPH (


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